For the first time since 1984, no Kenyan will be standing tall as an Olympic champion in the 3,000m steeplechase after Moroccan Soufiane El Bakkali won gold in Tokyo on Monday, with Kenya’s Benjamin Kigen only managing bronze.
Kenya has won every steeplechase title since the 1984 Games, but heading into Tokyo without either a reigning world champion or Olympic champion, it was always going to be a tall order to ensure the medal remains home.
Were it not for the two Olympic Games that Kenya boycotted in 1976 and 1980, the winning run would have stretched all the way back to 1968.
Kigen worked hard to win bronze, coming third in a time of 8:11.45, and only took advantage of Getnet Wale’s slip close to the final water barrier to power home within the medal brackets.
The Moroccan stomped in unstoppable pace in the final 200m to clinch the title in 8:08.90, the first Moroccan to ever win the water and barriers race. Ethiopian Lamecha Girma was second for silver at 8:10.38.
The Kenyan duo of Kigen and Kibiwott were at the front of the pack, running on the shadows of the two Ethiopians Girma and Wale Getnet who were running on the front of the pack.
But at the bell, Kibiwott began to drop off the pace with Kigen just but trying to keep up with the Ethiopian duo. At the bell, Girma was leading the pack with El Bakkali preying at the back.
At the back straight the Moroccan began to gallop upfront with Kigen trying to play catch up. But he bolted out passing the Ethiopian who tried to catch up. At the last water hurdle, Getnet tripped and fell and Kigen used that opportunity to battle for bronze.
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